We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephany Campos and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephany, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
Working in the homelessness arena is unlike any other social service sector – it embodies on the most extreme levels of poverty, substance use, sex work, mental health, chronic physical health conditions, increasing youth and LGTBQ populations, and everything in between in terms of demographics. For the work and service provision conducted, this can take the form of a social worker, an advocate, a counselor, a lawyer fighting for tenant rights, fighting for social justice and police brutality, to medical professionals, such as doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and therapists. All of this is just a fragment of what homelessness touches. And so this is to say the one thing to understand about homelessness is that it encompasses nearly all other industries and life as we know. Especially here in Los Angeles.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve been a homelessness advocate for the last five years, focusing on Los Angeles’ homelessness issue after completing my graduate studies. My passion lies in change through policy and activism. Two endeavors I am enthusiastic about fuse together at the intersection of public health and social justice. One began in 2016 as an idea to gather public toilet accessibility data for the Skid Row area. And such, the “No Place To Go” Report was released the following year. The 2017 Audit of Public Toilets on Skid Row was conducted by Skid Row residents and service providers in an effort to document the availability of public toilets in Skid Row. Additionally, we looked at how that availability compared to broadly-accepted standards for how many public toilets should be available to unhoused members of society. And our findings were daunting, some of which include: • During overnight hours, there were only 9 public toilets available for over 1,777 unsheltered people on Skid Row, and those toilets were largely inaccessible. • During day time hours, Skid Row is short of the United Nations sanitation standard by 164 public toilets. As a result, the report received international attention and has been referenced in dozens of articles: https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-skid-row-bathrooms-20170630-story.html https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/30/la-skid-row-homeless-toilet-access-report The entire report can be found here: https://www.innercitylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/No-Place-To-Go-final.pdf Just two months after the report was released, Los Angeles experienced a Hepatitis A outbreak and Homeless Health Care Los Angeles (HHCLA) was sole-sourced by the Mayor’s office to operate a hygiene center, which came to be known as the ReFresh Spot. It has brought showers, restrooms, laundry, drinking water, phone charging, and more to the Skid Row community. It open 24 hours a day/7 days a week and sees over 800 intakes every day. I have been the director of this site since its implementation and it’s now a permanent program offered in Skid Row. More information about the ReFresh Spot can be found here: https://hhcla.org/refresh-spot.html One more endeavor I would love to share is Overdose Prevention Sites. They are legally sanctioned facilities that allow people to consume pre-obtained substances under the supervision of trained staff and are designed to reduce the health and public order issues often associated with public substance consumption. Currently, there are eleven countries worldwide that operate such programs (also known as Safe Consumption Sites, Safe Injection Sites, and/or Drug Consumption Rooms). Many of these sites have been operating since the 1980s and have shown to reduce infection, prevent overdose fatalities, and increase treatment uptake. The United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic with no end in sight, yet no sanctioned sites currently operate in the country. Studies estimate potential savings from five outcomes: averted HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections, reduced skin and soft tissue infection (SSTI), averted overdose deaths, and increased medication-assisted treatment (MAT) uptake. Los Angeles County is a leader among overdose fatalities in the United States. Homeless Health Care Los Angeles is dedicated to addressing this critical reality and is poised to operate Los Angeles’ first Overdose Prevention Site. Over the last five years, I have worked with various groups, including the Drug Policy Alliance, to advocate on behalf of AB 362 to elected officials and their offices for the passing of AB 362, a bill that would sanction such sites. A lot of headway has been made and movement as of late has been trending in favor of its passing. More information about Overdose Prevention Sites can be found here: https://www.drugpolicy.org/issues/supervised-consumption-services More information about AB 362: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB362
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to shoutout my employer, Homeless Health Care Los Angeles, an innovate and forward-thinking nonprofit organization that has given me the platform to conduct passion work in and for the community I live in.